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The image of Republican presidential candidate, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is projected on a screen at a primary night rally as he is announced as the winner of the South Carolina primary January 21, 2012 in Columbia, South Carolina.
Do you support the guy you like or the guy who can win? That is the question the Republican Party appears to be having trouble answering as it determines who will be its 2012 presidential candidate.
This debate about whether a candidate’s general electability is more or less important than his GOP values appears to be complicating the primary process and dividing the party. As a result, for the first time since 1980, a different Republican candidate won each of the first three campaign primaries or caucuses—Rick Santorum in Iowa, Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, and now Newt Gingrich in South Carolina. According to national and state polling, Romney is the strongest candidate to beat President Obama by far, but by the numbers, he’s always had difficulty selling himself to the conservative wing of his own party. If the GOP is unable to come together and firmly support one single candidate, their chances of capturing the White House will be significantly diminished.
In light of the Tea Party movement and in the wake of the Bush era, in what ways has the GOP changed? How influential will the Florida primary be in terms of determining a clear frontrunner?
Kyle Kondik, political analyst, The Center for Politics